In middle and high school, some of us developed neat, legible handwriting.
The rest of us developed envy for those with tidy script.
If you sometimes have trouble reading your own writing, don’t fret.
It is still possible to learn techniques that produce neat handwriting.
Your writing woes could be due to improper form, unhelpful equipment, or just lack of practice.
Read on for ten ways to fix messy penmanship.
Why Is My Handwriting So Bad? (10 Ways To Fix It)
1. Change Your Grasp
One common cause of handwriting issues is holding the pencil incorrectly.
In schools, the tripod grip is typically what is taught to students who are just learning to write.
This is when you hold the pencil between the thumb and index finger while resting it on the middle finger.
If you’ve been holding your writing utensils differently for many years, this will probably feel unnatural at first.
The more you practice it, the more easily it will come to you.
There are also plenty of pencil grips available for sale that can help you get used to the technique.
The tripod grip is not the only way to hold a pencil.
If you can’t get the hang of holding it this way, there is another grasp that can still produce neat writing.
The adapted tripod is similar to the tripod, but the pencil is positioned between the index and middle fingers, rather than the index finger and thumb.
The two tripod grips are the most functional ways to hold a writing utensil.
However, what is most important is that your grip is comfortable and allows your hand to move on its own.
You shouldn’t need to move your whole arm to write.
Finger placement is not the only thing to consider when thinking about how to hold a writing utensil.
You may have other potential issues with your grasp.
First, the pencil should be at an angle, not straight up and down.
This will give you more control over the tip of the pencil.
You should also pay attention to how much pressure you are putting on the pencil.
Pushing down too hard will make your letters thick.
Not pushing down hard enough will make them wobbly and hard to read.
2. Adjust Your Posture
Another aspect of writing that is often overlooked is posture.
If you often find yourself hunched over or slouched back in your chair while writing, this could be causing some of your handwriting woes.
Correct sitting posture for writing requires paying attention to your entire body.
First, your feet should be flat on the floor.
Tucking them back under your chair will make you more likely to hunch forward while you write.
This will affect how much control you have over your pencil.
Next, your back should be straight.
You can lean forward slightly but should not be hunched.
Keep your shoulders down away from your ears.
Your body should feel relaxed while you write.
If you find your back, arm, or hand clenching up, you may need to sit back a bit and straighten up.
You also should not be slouched back in your chair.
Slouching keeps you from having proper control over your pencil.
Your non-dominant hand should be holding your paper steady.
If you are right-handed, your paper should tilt slightly to the right, and vice versa for left-handed people.
If you write with your paper perfectly square with your body or tilted too far in either direction, it will cause your writing to slant.
Your dominant hand should hold the pencil securely, but not too tightly.
Improper posture while writing can cause you to tire out more easily or can make your hand cramp up.
Changing how you sit will not only improve your penmanship, but it will also make writing a more pleasant activity.
3. Slow Down
Perhaps the most pervasive reason for poor handwriting is speed.
The faster you write, the sloppier your scrawl becomes.
When writing by hand, it is best to be conscious of how quickly you are going.
Relax and be mindful when you are writing by hand.
Hurrying through the task will cause you to lose control of your handwriting.
Slowing down a bit when putting pen to paper will do wonders for the readability of your work.
It may take a little longer, but whoever has to read your writing will thank you.
If you have a lot to write, such as an essay or a long letter, break it up into chunks.
Try writing slowly and carefully for a paragraph, then take a short break.
After the break, try writing two paragraphs in the same precise manner.
Doing this will build up your writing stamina.
Before long, you’ll be able to write an entire page neatly without stopping or tiring out.
Make sure, however, that you continue to be relaxed.
Slowing down shouldn’t mean gripping the pencil tighter or pushing down harder on the paper.
With enough practice, you’ll be able to increase your speed slightly while keeping your handwriting in check.
A handwritten letter shouldn’t be an all-day project, but slowing down a bit will create a nicer end product.
4. Pay Attention To How You Write
Checking your own work is a smart practice no matter the task.
Handwriting is no exception.
After writing something, take a look at what you’ve done.
Pay close attention to how tall you make your letters.
When writing on lined paper, tall letters (such as lowercase t, l, and h) should reach the line above.
Short letters (such as lowercase a and o, along with the circular parts of lowercase b and d) should be half the height of tall letters.
Your lines should be nice and straight.
A capital “A” is essentially three straight lines.
Each of these lines should be free of wobbles or curves.
On the other hand, rounded letters or letter parts should be as circular as possible.
When it comes down to it, every letter is some combination of straight lines and circles.
When you look at it this way, it’s much easier to see what you might need to correct in your penmanship.
Once you’ve identified letters you struggle to write correctly, pay extra attention while you form those letters.
Extending a little extra care while writing can improve the aspects of your handwriting you don’t like.
These small improvements can make a page of writing look much neater overall.
5. Find The Right Writing Utensil
Poor penmanship isn’t entirely the fault of the writer.
Certain writing utensils produce better handwriting than others
When working on adjusting your grip on the pen or pencil, choose a writing utensil with six sides.
These naturally help you grasp the pencil correctly.
Your thumb and index finger should each rest on one of the flat sides.
Another side should lay against your middle finger.
Rounded utensils tend to roll around in your hand and don’t have indicators as to where to grasp them.
Try a few different pens to find the one you like best.
Pens have several different tip sizes, so play around with them and decide how thick you’d like your writing to be.
Look for one with smooth-flowing ink.
It will help keep your handwriting consistent.
Another quality of pens you should consider is how likely they are to smear.
This is especially true if you are left-handed.
Because we write from left to right, left-handed people are more likely to rub their hand over the words they’ve already written.
If you are using a pen with ink that is slow to dry, this will result in your writing smearing across the page.
This issue is most commonly seen with gel pens.
Ballpoint and felt-tip pens, on the other hand, are a great solution.
These pens usually have fast-drying ink, meaning it is less likely to smear when your hand touches it.
If you are still inclined to write with gel pens, some brands make a fast-drying gel.
In fact, you can find pens of all types specifically made for left-handed people.
6. Use Quality Paper
Your sloppy script may be the fault of the paper you’re choosing to write on.
Some paper bleeds or tears easily.
Other types of paper don’t provide guidelines, making it easier to let your writing go wonky.
The best paper for good handwriting is lined or marked with faint dots or boxes.
These markings act as guidelines.
They help you keep your handwriting straight and tidy.
If you are writing on regular printer paper or stationery without lines, it will be harder for you to keep your words aligned with each other.
Some unlined paper is pretty to look at, but it won’t look so nice with crooked, messy writing all over it.
When you are first learning how to tidy your handwriting, choose paper that makes it easy for you to do so.
Another potential issue when it comes to paper is the thickness thereof.
If your paper is too thin, your writing could bleed through.
This will make it more difficult to read, especially if you are using both sides of the page.
Thin paper also tends to tear easily.
If you are using a pencil and need to erase, the too-thin paper could cause you to rub a hole right through the page.
This will ruin the appearance of the entire sheet, even if the rest of the paper looks nice.
Choose thick, hardy paper that will withstand bold ink and erased mistakes.
7. Copy Handwriting You Like
One of the best ways to improve your handwriting is to pay attention to other peoples’ penmanship.
Find writing you like.
Maybe your friend has nice, neat handwriting, or you love your grandmother’s cursive.
Find a sample of their writing and copy it.
Pay attention to what it is about the script that you like.
Is it how the letters are shaped?
Could it be the proportions of one letter to the next?
How thick or thin are the lines?
Once you know what elements of the writing you admire, you can take care to integrate them into your own handwriting.
Even tracing others’ writing can help improve your own penmanship.
This method is often used in elementary schools when first teaching children how to write.
If a kindergartner can learn by tracing, why not you?
Tracing will give you an idea of what it should feel like to write neatly.
Eventually, muscle memory will take over and your handwriting will start to look similar to the writing you are tracing.
This will take time.
It may seem funny to study handwriting, but it is one of the best ways to develop your own writing style.
With enough practice, you can take things you like from several styles of writing and combine them to create something unique to you.
There are also established methods of learning neat handwriting.
One that has stood the test of time is the Spencerian method.
If copying a friend’s writing isn’t working for you, you can always pick up a workbook and try copying the script in it.
These workbooks break the handwriting process down into steps.
If you learn better using a step-by-step approach, this method may be more effective for you.
8. Watch Videos For Tips
You can find just about anything on YouTube, including penmanship tips.
If you don’t want to spring for special workbooks, you can try watching handwriting videos.
Many videos give general tips on how to improve your handwriting as a whole.
Some of these include drills to use for practice.
Doing these drills each day can improve your writing little by little.
If you’d like to focus on one aspect of penmanship at a time, there are videos for that, too.
Entire YouTube channels are dedicated to teaching viewers how to write beautifully.
Some creators focus on one letter per video.
Some are committed to teaching neat print, while others focus on cursive or calligraphy.
Decide what it is you’d like to improve about your writing, and there is no doubt a video out there just for you.
Of course, if you feel like a beginner when it comes to penmanship, there’s plenty of material to help.
There are videos created for those just barely learning to write English letters, such as children or people who are new to the language.
These videos break writing down into the simplest of steps, often starting with one letter at a time.
9. Follow Handwriting Social Media Accounts
Some people are so dedicated to lovely handwriting that they create entire social media accounts for it.
Just like on YouTube, different creators specialize in different things.
You can find accounts that teach the very basics of print writing.
You can also find some featuring elegant, curling scripts that look like they belong on a wedding announcement.
Some of these accounts will provide followers with tips for copying their fancy lettering.
Others post a different hand-lettered word or quote each day.
Every creator has their own style and technique, but all are sure to inspire you to improve your own writing.
Thirty-day challenges are a common sight on Instagram accounts, particularly those that revolve around the arts.
These are a great way to work on your skills and improve day by day.
Every day, the account posts a new challenge or skill to work on for the day.
The beauty of these challenges is that you don’t need to do them alongside everyone else on the page.
You can work at your own pace.
It’s a common practice to then post your work for the day on your own page, but it’s not required.
Many of the owners of these accounts have monetized their talent in the form of classes or online tutoring sessions.
If you’re looking to really up your penmanship game, you can try signing up for a course.
Before long, you could be hand lettering Insta-worthy cards, posters, and signs.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
Of course, the only real way to improve at anything is to do it over and over.
Writing neatly is a skill, and just like any other skill, it requires repetition.
If you struggle with sloppy writing, it could simply be from a lack of practice.
In today’s increasingly digital world, we’re all using pencils and paper much less frequently.
However, being able to write legibly is still a useful, and sometimes crucial, skill.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of ways to practice neat writing every day.
One option is to start writing in a journal.
This is a great way to work on your penmanship while also documenting memories for years to come.
Journals are wonderful for practice because no one else has to read them.
You may be starting out with disastrous handwriting, but it doesn’t matter in a personal diary.
A trendy option for journaling right now is a bullet journal.
Instead of lined paper, bullet journals have dotted grid paper.
They are great for lettering, doodling, and drawing straight lines.
Even better, you can make each page anything you want.
Some people keep track of health stats like daily water intake or exercise.
Others use the pages for lists of books to read or goals to work toward.
Regardless, they are an effective way to perfect your handwriting.
Another exercise in penmanship is writing letters.
Everyone loves a handwritten letter, especially from loved ones.
Your grandparents won’t care if your handwriting isn’t perfect.
They’ll just be thrilled to hear from you.
Writing a weekly letter to a friend or family member can give you the repetitive practice you need to improve your writing.
Whatever you write, regular practice is the best way to tidy up messy handwriting.